Radio Communications

When I tell people I used to be in communications while I was in the Army, they immediately jump to what communications means today and in the civi world–PR and marketing.

That is not the case!

What I am talking about is the technological feat of communicating over long distances without the use of the internet, cell phones, satellites, land lines (aka telephones) or even smoke signals.  When it was new it was called the Wireless, later it became known as radio.  From the Korean War on it was known as RATT (an acronym for Radio And TeleType–the Army loves acronyms), which I must say has a bad-ass name.  (Please recall the Rat Patrol.)

Everyone who worked a RATT rig was known in the service as a 31-C (charlie) and we did out AIT (Advanced Individual Training) in the lovely surroundings of Fort Gordon (commonly know among its inmates as Fort Garbage) in Augusta, GA.

Way back in the dark ages, there were all sorts of communications: UHF, VHF, Microwave, and what the bandwidths we trod upon, SSB or Single Side Band.  While this is basically an amplitude modulation form of communications (or AM something else half the people in America have no idea what it is), the military works on bandwidths that civis cannot pick up.

I won’t get into the beauty of a perfectly tuned di-pole antenna, but suffice to say that when I was in the 67th Signal Battalion (D-Co), we often talked with Korea.  During my stint at Ft Gordon, our team played a great deal with different antenna configurations.  But it wasn’t until I got to Panama and the 23rd MI battalion that the real fun started.

More about that in a later post.  What I am gearing up to in this one is the fact that every time you see a movie or TV show that has people speaking on the radio, they almost always get it wrong!  So the following jargon is for both Hollywood and anyone that finds themselves communicating on an old fashioned radio during the Zombie Apocalypse.  Don’t expect any order just enjoy the ride.

OVER-This means that whoever is doing the talking is finished talking and is expecting a reply.

OUT-This mean that who ever is talking is finished, does not expect a reply and has signed off.

(Because of these two first entries, you can see why people saying “Over and Out” is quite ridiculous.  Why is this so hard for Hollywood to understand?!)

WILCO-This is another acronym, it means Will Comply.

Five-by-Five-This speaks to signal strength and clarity.  And they are not always the same.  You can have a very strong signal but full of static, not being able to hear what the transmitter is saying.  On the other hand the signal strength might be very weak, but the clarity very strong.

Say Again-This means the receiver did not understand what was said.  “Repeat” is an artillery term meaning to shoot more rounds down range.

I will add more  later, but I think this is enough to get you started.


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